SOUTHGATE, MI – President of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan’s (BSCM) Pastor Conference shares the following story.
“One year my wife and I took the girls to Fort Myers and made a purchase we didn’t think through at the time. We bought a body board down at the beach. It was a great idea until someone asked how we were going to get it on the plane! So we wound up leaving it at the Condo. That is not the part of the story that’s important. (Except to the people who stayed at the condo after us.)
When I finally decided to try it out – I watched countless people out on the waves – some on surfboards, some windsurfing, some on body boards and others just swimming. They were doing great – the waves just seemed to be moving them effortlessly along. So I jumped on – only to be hit by a significant wave that caused me to lose the board, and be driven under. As soon as I could get above the water and start to get my bearings, another wave came crashing over me. This happened time and again until I was finally deposited, a ragged mess, back in the shallows.”
For some, this story is an accurate depiction of what life is like when discouragement and depression sets in, and pastors can easily find themselves in the same condition. Wave after wave – while other churches, ministries, and ministers seem to be floating effortlessly, an individual can hardly keep his head above the waves to get their bearings, only to be hit again.
God’s Word gives insight into people who experienced this and how God reacted to them. Two of the greatest of the Old Testament would be David – victorious over Goliath and powerful King of Israel; and Elijah – powerful prophet who called down fire and rain from heaven on the same day. David would share where he was in Psalm 34:18 – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed!” A crushed spirit. That seems even worse than a broken heart. Broken hearts can be healed, But a crushed spirit? That brings to mind concrete that has been sledgehammered into powder and pieces. Many pastors and their families have been there. But David promises – from firsthand experience – that the Lord rescues those who find themselves in that predicament. Elijah actually is a little more of a process than David. He has experienced this wonderful victory, and yet within 24 hours he is ready to call it quits. God gently restores him. He doesn’t scold him – or tell him to put on his big boy pants. He feeds him, He lets him rest, He prepares him for a journey, He assures him of His presence, tells him that he’s not alone, and then gives him an assignment, and puts him back to work. How incredibly cool is God. He speaks the same to leaders today. “You are not alone! You will get through this. There is more for you to do and accomplish.”
There are some wonderful resources that the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has given to us. There is a Pastor’s Hotline – 1-844-Pastor1 (1-844-727-8671) The conversation stays confidential, and it gives a safe, secure place to talk and share. There is also a collaborative effort at www.care4pastors.com. Combining the resources of Lifeway, Focus on the Family, and Great Commandment ministries, this website gives insight, sermons, a calendar of events for couples and other great tools to help you navigate the waves that ministry brings. Take advantage of these, plus the encouragement that comes from the BSCM with the Pastor’s Conference, CEC, Galatians 6 retreats, and Date nights (coming in April!) All of these events have a purpose in moving pastors forward in their relationships, ministry, and personal life.
Next month – there will be more practical tips from the life of Elijah and David. Watch for The Aggression of Depression Part 2 in the March Beacon. Until then, remember that the God who created the waves will give the ability to ride the waves rather than be swept under by them. And when He is allowed to do that, it’s quite a ride!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Billy Walker is the lead Pastor of Calvary Church in Southgate, MI. He serves as the President of the BSCM Pastor’s Conference, and the Vice President of the Billy Walker Evangelistic Association. He lives in the downriver Detroit area with his wife Laurie. You can read more at www.billywalker.org.